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Homemade Mexican Horchata


We’ve been in Madison for just over a year now, an anniversary also nicely marked by the start of Brett’s second year of graduate school and by my 30th birthday, and lest you think those three occasions don’t lead to a fair bit of introspective life evaluation, let me tell you that they suuuuure do. But it all turns out pretty rosy, in this case – I’m happier each and every day about being back in the Midwest and not upset in the least by entering this new decade of life (in fact, I’m welcoming it with open arms).

Friends, family, and people we meet often ask us if we miss LA. We always say no – nooooo way, not at all, not one bit – but that’s not entirely true. We miss our friends (unbearably so, sometimes) and we miss the food. My god, how we miss the food. There are some things we can find here in Madison – a decent bowl of pho, some pretty good tacos – and when it comes to ingredients, Madison has Los Angeles beat nearly the entire year. But anything more exotic than that, and we’re at a loss. I’ve heard whispers of some decent Latin American options out near the suburbs, but our hectic schedule this year has kept us fairly well tethered to central Madison. So in the meantime, we try to learn and experiment with recipes for some of our favorites from back in LA, and bide our time until our next trip (this year, it’s New Years … I will happily stuff myself into 2015).

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know Mexican cuisine is a staple in our house. Brett’s famous margaritas are the stand-by when we have Mexican at home, though when we’re not looking for something quite so … powerful, and especially if we’re hosting a group of people, I make horchata. This sweet, creamy cinnamon and rice drink requires a bit of planning, since it needs to start the night before you want to drink it, but the results are absolutely worth it. (And if you’re still looking for a little pick-me-up to accompany your meal, I can verify that a splash … or a glug … of rum in a glass of horchata is certain to keep you happy. As is horchata mixed with coffee, hot or cold.)

Horchata – Makes about 8 cups (6-8 moderate servings)

  • 1 cup white rice (I like using jasmine rice for a little extra floral quality, but almost any basic short- or long-grain rice works beautifully)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (important – ground cinnamon won’t work here!)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole or 2%)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (note: if you’d rather, you can add another 1/4 cup sugar and a bit more milk instead of using the condensed milk)
  • Powdered cinnamon, for garnish (optional – I like it, but it can get a little clumpy on the surface, which you can somewhat see in the photo of the bottle, above)

– Grind and soak the rice (the night before) Process the rice in a blender until it is fairly well ground, around the consistency of coarse corn meal or polenta. Pour water over the ground rice, add the cinnamon sticks, and refrigerate overnight or at least eight hours.

– Strain and assemble Strain the rice-water mixture (which should be white and fairly opaque by this point) through a mesh sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel. Squeeze what’s left in the towel to extract as much of the liquid as you can. Add the sugar, milk, and condensed milk, mixing until dissolved. Taste and adjust sweetness, milk, and water as needed. Horchata is supposed to be pretty sweet, but you can add more milk or water if you want something less sweet. Garnish with ground cinnamon, if desired, and serve over ice. (Adding a splash of rum is optional, but definitely delicious.)

Storage/making ahead: Horchata will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 


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